Meisie Nkosi has come a long way since her days selling boiled eggs at bus stops. The former school teacher received an entrepreneurial award for her guest house, Bella Bonni.
The guest house owner was awarded the title of Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year in the Sanlam/ Business Partners annual competition. The ceremony was held in Johannesburg, on Thursday.
In an interview with Fin24, Nkosi explained that she always had an aptitude for doing business. Growing up, she ran a number of informal businesses. “I used to sell boiled eggs at the bus stop. I used to sit with a blanket on days when it was cold,” she said.
During her varsity days she used to sell jeans. Nkosi spent 11 years in the education profession and even as a Head of Department, she ran her informal businesses on a part time basis.
After her husband, a boiler maker by profession, was retrenched they decided to go into business together. They ran a steel fabrication business.
“Working with your husband, you don’t get total freedom. He is always the head,” she said.
Nkosi decided to start her own sub-contracting business, which did not pan out well. In 2006, Nkosi bought a house in eMalahleni, Witbank and converted it into a guest house. Raising capital was not difficult.
“The banks just liked me. I answered all their questions. I had a good attitude,” she said.
She admits that in the beginning there were areas where she lacked knowledge. Especially around issues of compliance, but she learnt quickly.
According to a statement by the competition organisers, the judges were extremely impressed by Nkosi’s ability to establish and grow a business in the hospitality industry in an area that is not typically a tourist hotspot.
“Meisie’s challenge is that, being based in Witbank, she is not able to rely on seasonal tourists like a business in Cape Town may do,” commented the judges.
Nkosi believes what sets her business apart is the team of people who work with her. They are all amazing and they bring energy to the business. She is proud of the fact that they continue to run the business, even when she is not around.
“I train them, some of them do not have matric,” she said. The gardener who started out with her now works as a chef. “They have worked with me for years.”
Winning the award is not just for Nkosi and her team, but the community of people who have supported her business over the years. “Some of them even posted it on Twitter and Facebook. They are celebrating too,” she said.
She believes the award will boost the brand and motivate staff.
Nkosi is currently saving money to buy houses around the guest house property. She wants to turn it into a hotel and eventually establish more branches of the guest house in South Africa.